Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Cech stars as Arsenal draw with Liverpool

Monday night's game against Liverpool presented me with my first opportunity to write about an Arsenal game in depth this season. I was unfortunately busy during the first three weeks of the new campaign, including the Community Shield and therefore the 0-0 draw against the Reds yesterday night was the first time I'd been able to properly catch a game. My focus in the previous few weeks has been on the cricket, and enjoying another England home Ashes win. My priorities have been away from football and because of that I haven't been able to properly enjoy a Premier League weekend since the new campaign got underway. Now having watched Arsenal fail to score once more at the Emirates, I'm puzzled by our prospects for this season. Nonetheless, the game presented quite a few talking points to us Arsenal fans.

It's clear to see that we haven't set the world alight with our early season form. Many had tipped Arsenal to be right up there this season, especially with the acquisition of Petr Cech, but a lack of further signings and tactical 'arrogance' as quoted by Gary Neville on MNF last night, is perhaps halting Arsenal in their progress. Their pre-season form was excellent, and that was backed up by a fantastic 1-0 win over Chelsea in the Community Shield. However that win seems a long time ago now with the Gunners taking just four points from a possible nine out of the opening three games of the new season.
Petr Cech starred for Arsenal as he kept his side in the game
The performance against Liverpool more or less summed up the Arsenal side of last season, and you can't help but feel something is missing again. The story in this particular fixture may well have been very different had Petr Cech not been playing though. He made mistakes that proved costly on the opening day but more than made amends against Liverpool on Monday night. He made a string of fine saves that kept Arsenal in the game during the first half. He made a top save at point blank range from Christian Benteke who should've scored before making a great diving save to his left hand side to tip Phillipe Coutinho's shot onto the post.

Cech would not have been convinced by the defence in front of him. Both of our first choice centre halves were missing as Per Mertesacker had an illness and Koscielny a mild back problem. Therefore the unfamiliar pairing of Calum Chambers and Gabriel started in defence. Gabriel had a pretty good game in defence and you can see that the potential is there for the 24 year old Brazilian. This was probably his biggest test in an Arsenal shirt yet and I thought he dealt pretty well with the threat of Benteke. He showed his pace as being one of his strongest assets, an attribute that showed shades of a game similar to that of Laurent Koscielny. He meanwhile looked decent physically too. Calum Chambers didn't have the greatest of games though and he contributed in a negative way to Arsenal's poor first half performance where we seemed all over the place defensively. Monreal did well down the left which doesn't come as a surprise anymore whilst Bellerin still looked a little vulnerable.

A part of that poor first half performance was the lack of chances we created. We didn't have a clear cut chance and continuously gave the ball away in promising areas. It's a trend that's become too frustrating in recent times for Arsenal. Olivier Giroud hardly saw any of the ball and was very isolated up front alone. It's been clear for a while that we do need a better striker, and one that can create moments of magic alone. However, I can't see where any type of signing will come from in the remaining few days, especially with Benzema now looking very much set to stay in Madrid.

You'd probably look at me in a very weird way if I said Arsenal lack creativity; especially with Cazorla, Ozil and Sanchez all playing. However that's what Arsenal have lacked in the opening few games of the season. A part of that is because of Wenger's tactics. Much was talked about the midfield pairing of Cazorla and Coquelin on Sky Sports in the build-up to the game but they worked last season. However Wenger's continued desire to field Aaron Ramsey on the right hand side is hindering us in attack in my opinion. After Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's form in pre-season and his performance against Chelsea in the Community Shield I think it's absolutely ridiculous how he can't start on that right hand side at the moment. He showed signs of what we'd been missing against Liverpool when he came on, immediately running at the young Joe Gomez and causing problems for the visitors.

Aaron Ramsey didn't necessarily have a bad game but he likes to come inside which I talked about a lot last season and therefore we lack an outlet on the right flank when he's supposedly playing in that position. Ramsey in fact was the only player to put the ball in the back of the net on the night. Cazorla played a lovely ball into him before he beat Mignolet at his near post. Unfortunately though the goal was ruled out for offside despite him looking marginally onside. If Wenger wants to get the best out of Aaron Ramsey though he may have to sacrifice Santi Cazorla's place in the side and get him back in the middle where he placed so well two season ago. It seems ages ago now that Ramsey was the star of our team but the manager is going to have to switch the pack around a bit if we're to find a winning formula going into our next few games.

Arsenal's second half performance was a lot better though, and it came as no surprise that once Mesut Ozil got involved in proceedings more we looked a better outfit. We created a lot more chances and could've actually come away with a victory despite on the balance of the whole 90 minutes, a draw being the fair result. Alexis Sanchez had a very good chance, and it was one that had he'd had a pre-season he may well have scored. Olivier Giroud also had a big chance, one which was saved by Mignolet as the Frenchman looked to be pulled back by the defender as he went to shoot.

Next up for Arsenal is a trip to Newcastle which has the potential to be another tough game, especially as the Magpies drew 0-0 with United in their previous encounter. You can never be too sure of which Newcastle side will turn up but it's vitally important that Arsenal start winning now, rather than later when it could already be too late. Another slow start like last season and the Gunners could find themselves out of the title race before they've even built up ahead of steam. Let's just hope they've learnt from last season in regards to this specific aspect.

The team's line-ups:

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin(82), Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud(73).
Subs: Ospina, Debuchy, Gibbs, Flamini, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain(82), Walcott(73).

Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Gomez, Can, Lucas(75), Milner, Firmino(63), Coutinho(88), Benteke.
Subs: Bogdan, Sakho, Moreno(88), Rossiter(75), Ibe(63), Origi, Ings.

My man of the match: Petr Cech.

Referee: Michael Oliver.
Attendance: 60,080.

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